Gastro­ with wine tumblers?

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Related tags: Gastro pub, Wine

Normally I'd walk away if I saw tumblers on a table masquerading as wine glasses ­ they makeall wine taste like plonk. But this is the Anchor &...

Normally I'd walk away if I saw tumblers on a table masquerading as wine glasses ­ they makeall wine taste like plonk. But this is the Anchor & Hope. The gastro pub, on The Cut near Waterloo station, has won more awards than you can shake a stick at ­ and it only opened a year ago. The latest accolade is the number one slot in Peter and Richard Harden's Top 10 London Restaurants for 2004, which appears in the recently published Harden's London Restaurants 2005. Yes, restaurants ­ this is not just a pub top 10. The humble Anchor & Hope comes ahead of glitzy new stars such as Roka (number eight), Rasoi Vineet Bhatia (number seven) and 1880 (number five). Why is the Anchor & Hope so good? Because it has a team from St John and the Eagle behind it ­ two of the most important influences on British dining in the past decade. There's co-chef Jonathan Jones and bar manager Robert Shaw, who both did time at St John; then there's co-chef Harry Lester who cooked at the Eagle, and its sister pub the Fox, both of which are owned by fourth partner Mike Belben. From their open kitchen (now a gastro pub trademark) Jones and Lester cook up dishes such as cassoulet, mutton and barley stew; warm snail and bacon salad, duck legs and pumpkin gratin, smoked sprats, grouse (with the guts spread on accompanying toast). This is hearty fare, requiring robust wines ­ so what does the capital's favourite gastro pub put on its wine list? Shaw buys the wines. He keeps the list short, at around 30 bottles ­ with 12 whites, 12 reds, three rosés, three bubblies, three dessert wines and six wines offered by the glass. And he juggles five different suppliers, including Bacchus and Les Caves de Pyrene. "Also I change the list frequently, regardless of whether it sells well or not ­ it keeps both me and the customers interested, and it means we can keep it seasonal," he says, banging home the pub's raison d'être. "This month, for example, we've got a lot of game birds coming up, so I'm looking at different Pinot Noirs." Shaw is an Old World wine fan. "I think the wines best reflect our menu," he declares. "It's what we like as a team, too. Our food is European, for sure, and we like the subtlety of Old World wines. For me, New World wine is just a bit too brash, too in your face, for this kind of food." Though Shaw does admit that because of the imminent influx of game in the coming months, he will be looking at wines from California and Argentina. "I hate those jigsaw lists you get in pubs these days ­ especially branded wines," he says. "I'm completely open to trying new things." But one thing he won't budge on is price ­ the most expensive wine on the list is £33 (a red Burgundy from the Côte d'Or), with his house wine dominating sales (a red and white Vins de Pays du Gard from Domaine des Sources, at £10 a bottle). "If I stuck wines on there at £60 a bottle, I could sell them, but I don't want to go down that route ­ it's not what we're about," he says. Neither are decent wine glasses, apparently. Though to be fair, you only get a tumbler if you ask for one of the wines offered by the glass. Once you move off these, and you go up a price notch, you get proper stemware ­ though interestingly, Shaw goes against the grain by offering a 125ml glass. "I really dislike those big buckets of wine you get in pubs and restaurants these days ­ the wine warms up far too quickly. Yes, we have been ridiculed for our tumblers but I'm not changing them, there are just too many breakages. The wine list would have to be more expensive if we did, and as I said, this is not what we're about." Fair point. I can do wine in tumblers (not). Next topic, wine glasses ­ and how I hate the Paris Goblet.

Related topics: Wine

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